Animal charity chairman quits following welfare row over her 18 pet cats

·3 min read
Linda Upson has decided to step down as chairman of Cats Protection after a scandal over her living situation with 18 pet cats
Linda Upson has decided to step down as chairman of Cats Protection after a scandal over her living situation with 18 pet cats

The chairman of Britain’s biggest cat charity has quit following a welfare row over her 18 pets, which she claimed on Monday were “happy and healthy” in her first public comments.

Linda Upson, who has chaired the board of Cats Protection since 2017, said she had decided to step down to avoid the scandal, revealed by the Telegraph last week, detracting from the charity’s “vital work”.

Her decision to keep 18 cats in a three-bedroom house had raised concerns that one of the most senior figures at the charity was breaching official guidelines on welfare.

Cat owners are advised by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to ensure the animals have “enough space so that they can get away from one another”.

Ms Upson, however, was said to have seen no problem with her living arrangements.

The charity’s decision to keep her as chairman following an internal investigation prompted the resignation of Charles Darley, the interim chief executive.

Charles Darley stepped down from his role in the charity following the scandal
Charles Darley stepped down from his role in the charity following the scandal

He accused the organisation’s trustees of being “blind to the reputational impact of owning too many cats” and said his concern was shared by five other animal charities who were consulted.

Ms Upson struck a defiant tone in a statement on Monday announcing her resignation as she denied that there were any welfare problems with her cats.

She said: “I have today stepped down from my role as Cats Protection’s chair of trustees and my role as a trustee on the board because I passionately support Cats Protection and do not wish recent news coverage to detract from the charity’s vital work helping cats in need.”

She added: “Cat welfare and wellbeing have always been a paramount concern for me and I have always ensured my own cats and foster cats receive the best possible care.

“My cats are aged between nine and 19 years old. I believe they are happy and healthy as each has their own feeding bowl, litter tray and other resources. They are all fully vaccinated and regularly taken for veterinary consultations. I also have no foster cats at this time.”

Sponsorship fears

Several major corporate sponsors contacted Cats Protection last week to discuss the situation after it was reported in this newspaper.

There were fears the companies may seek to activate clauses in their contracts allowing them to terminate sponsorship due to “public embarrassment”.

Senior staff had long been horrified by Ms Upson’s living situation and many felt “nervous about using her as a spokesperson for the charity”, according to Mr Darley.

Angela Swarbrick, the deputy chairman of Cats Protection, said: “We would like to thank Linda for her dedication to our organisation’s work on cat welfare for the past two decades.

“We realise this has been a difficult time for Linda particularly following her decision to step back from her duties as chair between mid-December 2021 and January 2022 to consider her position with the charity.

“Cats Protection takes governance seriously and our trustees follow the Charity governance code. The charity undertakes regular reviews and has committed to an external review of its governance procedures and processes to ensure that we are confident in delivering the next 10 years of our strategy so we can do the best for cats.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting